Celebrating Alan’s 3rd Year of Retirement



January 7 marked the third anniversary of Alan’s retirement. It is hard to believe that it’s been that long already, time seems to fly right by. There are some people who believe that retirement will lead to boredom . . . we wonder how we ever had time for a job!

Being party animals (not) we are celebrated with a day of cuddles from the pups (at least until the fight breaks out between Sami and Lou over who gets Daddy’s lap) and a home-made lemon cake!

Happy Anniversary Husband . . . so glad we made this change!

BTW . . . has anyone else noticed that Lou looks a little devilish in all his photos?? He always seems to have something devious in mind!

Consulate Journey

A week after UNR defeated UNLV for the eight straight time, we found ourselves on a flight to Los Angeles for our visa appointment at the Italian Consulate.

We were prepared. Or so we thought. We had not one, but two binders full of documents (in triplicate), a list from the consulate Web site of the documents required and enough passport photos to choke a hippo.

The evening before the appointment we landed at LAX, took a taxi to our hotel, arrived three hours early and received a nice upgrade to a suite. After a glance at a map realized that we were just a few blocks from where our sister Trina and her husband and daughter lived and gave Trina a call to let her know that we were in town.

She immediately asked if we were free that evening and said that when she was finished with an appointment that they would stop by our hotel to visit. We eagerly awaited her arrival, sort of . . . both of us were exhausted after a day of travel and fell asleep within minutes of sitting down, thankfully our afternoon respite didn’t last too long and we were both awake to greet our visitors a few hours later. Trina and her husband, Glenn, took us to dinner at Norm’s, a favorite of theirs and we really enjoyed ourselves.

Rarely do we get such great one-on-one time with family as most family events involve many more people, so we were both excited and pleased for their time and attention. After dinner they took us by the cottage they’ve rented in LA, which is absolutely adorable and Trina walked her sister around the quiet neighborhood where they live while the brothers-in-law chatted at the cottage.

Trina had offered to pick us up the following morning and to drop us off at the consulate for our appointment, saving us a great deal in cab fare. We were happy for her company and really enjoyed the afternoon when we finished at the consulate. Trina took us to the California Academy of Science (the new home of the Space Shuttle Endeavor) on the USC campus where we explored for hours all of the great exhibits, then she took us on the route the Endeavor traveled from LAX to it’s new home at the Academy of Science. We were both amazed and awed at the size of the Space Shuttle and the ingenuity it took to get it from one place to the other.

Our afternoon exploits helped us to forget our morning at the Italian Consulate.

After arriving an hour early and waiting in the small room with a very large window looking down at Avenue of the Stars, we were called promptly at our appointed time by Patricia Maroni, our intake counselor for a visa.

She quickly looked through the binder of our paperwork and asked where we got the list of documents. Stating that she hoped we hadn’t used the one from the Italian Immigration site as that is not the same list as the one for the Italian Consulate General in LA. We smiled and told her we had the list from the LA Consulate Web site, whew close call, because weeks earlier we had called the consulate and were told that the list was on their Web site. She smiled and said “Oh no, that is not the one to use. It is outdated, you should have called and asked for the right list from us, then you would have been prepared.”

There are no words to describe the swearing that was happening in our heads as we looked at Patricia incredulously and stated “Well, now we know better for next time.”

Patricia graciously gave us the super-secret, can’t get it till you get here in person, list of documents and as we eagerly read through the list to see if we had the additional documents in our “other” binder of documents. We had one of the three we were missing, our marriage license. The other missing documents were a letter from us to the Consulate General stating why we wanted to live in Italy – that has to be signed and notarized – and a letter from our banker stating our monthly income, account types and balances.

We asked Patricia if a bank statement would suffice as many of us in the U.S. don’t actually know our banker. She said “NO. It needs to be a letter from your banker and needs also to be signed by your banker.”

So after our lovely afternoon with Trina and our niece, Etta-Kimiyo, we found ourselves back at LAX waiting for our flight and reviewing the events of our visit to the consulate and making a list for the following Monday.

1) write a letter explaining why we want to live in Italy

2) find a notary so the Consulate General knows that our next door neighbor didn’t write our letter for us

3) find our who the hell our banker is and get them to write us a letter

We pick up the letter at 10 am today and will be visiting the notary this afternoon, followed by a trip to FedEx to send everything back to Patricia, including the thank you card for all her help during our recent visit.

Fingers crossed people, we are hoping to get a favorable reply and the visa stamp in our passports by Christmas so we can book our flights, get the dog certified for travel and move in early January.

Whew, almost there.

Countdown, Milestones, Paperwork, and Finally “Pulling the Pin”

Exciting week in our progress toward retirement and relocation.

Magic numbers:  This last Tuesday was 100 days left in my final semester teaching at TMCC.  Perhaps because I am in “short timer mode” and nostalgic during this semester, these numeric milestones cause me pause when I reach them.

The event reminded of Chapter 100 from Tom Robbins’ “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.”

Well, here we are at Chapter 100. This calls for a little celebration. 

I am an author and therefore in the same business God is in: if I say this page is a bottle of champagne,  it is a bottle of champagne. Reader, will you share a cup of the  bubbly with me? You prefer French to domestic? Okay, I’ll make it French. Cheers!

Here’s to the one hundredth chapter! Hundred.

A cardinal number, ten tunes ten, the position of the third digit to  the left of the decimal point, a power number signifying weight, wealth and importance. The symbol for hundred is C, which is also the symbol for the speed of light. There are a hundred pennies in a dollar, a hundred centimeters in a meter, a hundred years in a century, a hundred yards on a football field, a hundred points in a carat, a hundred ways to skin a cat and a hundred ways of cooking eggplant.”

As a joke a decade ago I had a “Retirement Countdown Clock” sitting on my office desk which counted down days my 30 year anniversary of public service.  I would carry the joke further  every few years by sending e-mails to friends and colleagues with the subject line, “My pending retirement . . .” and explain that there was only 3,650 days (or fewer days as time passed) until my retirement and I would make my best effort to visit and make my good byes in the “few” remaining days I left.  I am now in the “double digits” of days left at the college and there really is only a few days to make time to say good-bye to all those friends and colleagues.

Tuesday of this week also marked 125 days until our target departure date.  Our countdown is rapidly working its way down.

Official Paperwork:  On Friday, Tracy and I drove to Carson City to file my final retirement with the Nevada Public Employee Retirement System (PERS.)  While I had previously given the college my notice to retire, I also needed to complete and submit my retirement application for my pension with PERS.  My retirement application had some complexity because I have an overlapping 16 years of law enforcement (Police/Fire retirement) and 20 years of college teaching (Regular retirement) for a combined total of 32 years credit of public service.  The application was also an exception because most Nevada college and university faculty contribute to other retirements systems like Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA–CREF) and not PERS. The forms are now signed, notarized, and filed.

I have now officially “pull the pin” and the “fuse is lit” for my retirement effective January 7, 2013.


Alan in his office at Truckee Meadows Community College, 2012

And the good news keeps coming . . .


Item number two on our “big list” was to sell Apollo.

A week ago, we listed Apollo on Craig’s List after getting him a bath and taking a few photos of him all bright and shiny. We knew that we needed to act quickly before the winter season set in as it is very difficult to sell a sport car when it’s snowing, especially one that is rear-wheel drive.

So after his mini spa day and photo shoot, we wrote an ad, uploaded some photos of Apollo’s big smiling mug and listed a price we thought we could negotiate around and sent it into the vastness of the Internet to work it’s magic on the right person.

Three days later the right person came along. Exactly the right person — over the age of 40 and could drive a manual transmission, someone who had sports cars his whole life (mainly Corvettes) and who could appreciate a GM product, someone who had a second vehicle and wouldn’t need Apollo as a means of transportation in the winter, and best of all . . . someone with cash.

A quick phone call, a 15 minute meet at the marina, a peek under the hood and a hop into the driver’s seat and he was on his way home with his wife and Schnauzer. The following day, another quick phone call, a 15 minute meet at the bank and finally a quick test drive (my first time in the passenger seat) and Apollo was on his way home with his new family.

Now we are looking forward to getting “big list” item three handled. Number three is selling the Smart car which we are expecting to start in November.

Things continue to move forward and we are grateful and appreciative of all those who are helping us along the way, even if it’s just rehoming a few “big list” items for us!

Visa Requirements: Check!

Successful day for us.

Tracy arranged an 18 month lease for an apartment on Via Laura in the downtown historic district of Florence from Apartments Florence.  The apartment is about 1/3 of a mile north of the Duomo, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower), and a block away from Basilica della Santissima Annunziata (Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation.)

Alan obtained travel insurance from World Nomads.

For a greater than 90 days visit, Italy required a full Schengen Visa.  Our requested visa is titled “Elective Residency” which requires proof of financial support, a place of residence, and medical insurance.  We now have two requirements out of three and statements requested and enroute from the Nevada Public Employment Retirement System (PERS) to demonstrate our financial independence with our pensions.  An Elective Residency visa does not allow our employment in Italy.  Which is fine with us since our goal is retirement not work.

Alan rubbing the snout of Il Porcellino, Florence.
Alan rubbing the snout of Il Porcellino (Italian “piglet”) the Florentine nickname for the bronze statue of a boar. Originally intended for the Boboli Garden, it is currently in the Mercato Nuovo in Florence. Visitors rub the boar’s snout to ensure a return trip to Florence, a tradition that has kept the snout in a state of polished sheen.

Tracy’s Swan Song

photo of a sunset

I retired yesterday. 

I drove to the office like it was any other day, AC/DC’s Highway to Hell on Apollo’s [my 2008 bright yellow Saturn Sky] stereo, caramel macchiato from Starbuck’s in the drink holder, keys clipped to the strap of my purse — a regular day. As I drove up the hill that I have driven up for 18 years it finally dawned on me — this is the last trip up this hill I will ever have to do. Wow! After 18 years you’d think that there would be something amiss with elated attitude, it almost seemed wrong to be so happy about leaving. But in the grand scheme of things someone must leave in order for the next person to promote and grow.

And besides, we have a schedule to adhere to. This is item number 2 on the “big list” of things to do before going to Italy and I’m just not sad about it. Number 1 was selling the house — downsizing, minimizing, moving to an apartment — check, done. Number 2 — Tracy retires and begins wrangling paperwork — check, done.

So yesterday morning I parked the car, grabbed my purse and my coffee and headed in to the office like any other day — except the only thing left to do was to write a farewell e-mail to my colleagues, turn in my keys, my checklist, my exit interview and meet a few friends, the husband and my boss for lunch at my favorite restaurant for what Barb (my boss of 3 years) called my “swan song.” We had a great time and laughed plenty, especially since the three friends that were there knew ALL of the stories from my 18 years at the college, every last goofy, slightly unprofessional, moronic thing I had done these three knew it all — I haven’t laughed that hard in a long, long time!

My farewell e-mail went something like:

It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to have worked with all of you during my 18 years at TMCC. I will be leaving today with great memories of such things as registering students manually for classes, the invention of the Tel-Reg system, the annual Poker Run, commencement at Rancho San Rafael, Welcome Back skits, Night of a Thousand Classes, the Tenure Celebration and much, much more.

I also want to say thanks to some of the professors I’ve had over the years — Kelsie Harder, Jim Roderick, Bill Gallegos, and my dear friend Carola Naumer — as I retire from TMCC with degrees in Art History and Fine Arts, largely due to their encouragement and teaching excellence.

Our next adventure starts January of 2013, when we move to Florence. Which is my next assignment — taking care of paperwork and all the loose ends that need to be tied prior to our departure.

It may not be La Dolce Vita but life in Italy will definitely feel like a retirement made in heaven.

Thank you and farewell.

What I didn’t expect was the 63 responses I received within a few hours of sending this message. I know most of the people at the college, but I still didn’t expect that many responses, especially since most of the faculty are away for the summer — it felt good to know I’ll be missed, you really can’t ask for more than that.

But even with such a wonderful out-pouring of support I cannot feel sad, I know that I’ll miss the people that I worked with for 18 years, there are some very nice people at TMCC and I really enjoyed working with them over the years, but I’m not sad and I won’t miss it. I had a great job, I loved what I did and I was pretty good at it [well at least people were kind and SAID I was good at it =) ] but it was just what I did during the day. It was always a job, never my life. Life was what happened between 5 pm and 8 am the rest was just work. Some days good, some not so much, but the job paid for the life and the life was at home — and that’s where I am now, home living my life and — largely due to an awesome husband, great kids and family and amazing friends — it’s a pretty good one.

Researching and Planning the Move

“Wow! That was sudden.  You’re moving to Italy?”

It’s that old joke about a rock band performing for ten years in small halls and venues to suddenly make it big and become “an overnight sensation.”  Tracy and I have been considering and planning our retirement for about five years.

Tracy explained on the “Back Story” page that it all started with a cruise to the Mexican Rivera for Tracy, her mom, aunt, and sister.  Tracy fell in love with old colonial Mazatlan and came back told me we should consider retiring to Mexico.

That started the research for retiring to a locale where our pensions would stretch further and we could travel and explore more of the world.  We carefully considered Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and Belize. After much thought and discussion, we discovered that one reason for looking for an inexpensive place to live was to have the ability to travel to Europe.  Rather than flying from Central or South America for occasional visits, why not live in Europe full-time?  In the current financial situation, Greece, Spain, Portugal,  Ireland, and Italy were all bargains for cost of living.  Tracy and I love art and with UNESCO saying 60% of the world’s great art being in Italy, we decide on relocating to the country of Tracy’s heritage, Italy.

In our constant “work in progress” for retirement planning, we started research in earnest. We have been asked over and over “How do you know that?”  Well these are the resources:

BOOKS:  We love books and started there when we were considering Latin America.  The problem you have to consider is the “lag time” between the book being written, publication, and the book being purchased.  We found many issues, like immigration rules, to be a “moving target” that is constantly changing.  Generally speaking, the more recent the book is, the more accurate and useful it is. Tracy was a graphic designer for over 15 years and truly understands that something is out of date the moment it goes to print.

Living Abroad in Italy,” John Moretti, Moon Publishing

Living and Working in Italy, ” Caroline Prosser, Survival Books

Retirement without Borders, How to Retire Abroad–in Mexico, France, Italy, Spain, Costa Rica, Panama, and Other Sunny, Foreign Places (And the Secret to Making It Happen Without Stress),” Barry Golson with Thia Golson, Scribner Publishers

How to Retire Overseas, Everything You Need To Know To Live Well (For Less) Abroad,” Kathleen Peddicord

The Expert Expat, You Guide To Successful Relocation Abroad,” Melissa Brayer Hess and Patricia Linderman

The Grown-Up’s Guide To Running Away From Home, Making A New Life Abroad,” Rosanne Knorr


With e-Readers and online publishing become more common, we found several of the above books found available as e-books.  The are also books available exclusively as e-books that were very helpful, even if they were non-traditionally published.  Many books are available from Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble, some directly from the authors, and some provided by travel sites, often as a courtesy or a “leader” for other services.  I have downloaded several to my Kindle e-reader.

The DIY Guide To Moving Your Dog Abroad,” Kate and Rob Hash, Hash Consulting, LLC

Italy From The Inside Out, The Definitive Survival Guide For Travelers,” Francesa Tosolini


There are many Web sites with expats moving to Italy as their intended audience.  Like all Web sites, some are professional; some written by talented and dedicated amateurs who have a love for the topic; some by businesses hoping their well written site will attract you into purchasing a service they provide; and some accurate at the time they were written, but now out of date; and some are badly written and often just plain wrong (they often have an adjacent “Alien Abduction” or “You Never Have To Pay Taxes Again” Web site.)  Several Web sites are intended for British subjects and you have to remember that the rules may be different for citizens of the European Union than for citizens of the U.S.

AngloINFO, The Global Expat Network.

Expats in Italy, For Those Who Dream And Those Who Live The Dream.

Italy Magazine, The Community For Lovers Of All Things Italian.

ExpatFocus, For Everyone Moving Or Living Abroad.”

Life In Italy.”


What we have found is that there is no better way of learning how to become an Expat than to read about the recent exploits of people who accomplished just that.  Expat blogs are a great way of getting recent information. It’s important to remember the “moving target” factor that rules and laws change, people have their own unique circumstances, and there are geographic differences. With that in mind, blogs are still a great tool to learn from other people’s experiences. They also have the added bonus of being able to contact the blog’s author with a question.  Most bloggers are more than happy to share the answer.

La Vita E Bella

An American In Italy

Italy Beyond The Obvious

Living In Italy by Melinda Gallo

Moving To Florence


A good way to understand the local culture is to read expat and English-language newspapers from your preferred destination.

The American InItalia

The Florentine



The definitive source of information is government Web sites.  However, you may need to search through several sites to find the answers you need. Remember to check to see if it up to date. Most sites have a date of the last update somewhere near the bottom of the home page. Language may be an issue as not all government Web sites are bi-lingual. There are some translation sites like Google Translate that do a fair job of translating the information, but it can be time-consuming and is not always accurate. Again, the famous “moving target” factor is compounded by how well the site’s Webmaster does their job.

The Italian Embassy

The Consolate General for Italy in Los Angeles

Italian Immigration

Italian State Police


After reading and researching tons of information, verifying known conflicts, we believe we have an understanding our goal now. We have moved onto the implementation stage our plan to retire to Italy.  Tracy is the “Queen of Organization.”  On the wall of our bedroom is now a project calendar listing all the remaining “To Do’s” that we need accomplish in the next six months.  We have the “To Do” lists in our computers and on our Kindles.  One reason Tracy is retiring six months prior to our departure is to make sure all “loose ends” get tied up and do not delay our scheduled move.  Our big move will not be an “overnight success,” but an achievement built on a lot of hard work.

Alan’s Retirement: 200 Days and Counting

Next week is Tracy’s final week at work prior to her retirement on June 29.  She is excited to start her retirement working full-time on our final visa paperwork and preparing all the logistics for our move to Florence.  She is the ultimate “Queen of Organization.”

I’m envious she is retiring first, but looking forward to be teaching one last semester at Truckee Meadows Community College while still helping Tracy with the moving process between classes.  I have a few days less than 200 to go until I “pull the pin” and join her in retirement.

Between careers in law enforcement and college teaching I have about 32 years in public service prior to retirement with five years working in the private sector before that.  I feel privileged to have had two challenging and rewarding careers serving my community and, with minimizing and simplifying our lifestyle, being able to retire young enough to fully embrace our expat adventure.

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7 days and counting

One week to go. In just seven short days, I’ll be retired after 18 years at the college. I won’t miss the work, but I’ll definitely miss the people. After so many years of driving to the same place, parking in the same place, seeing the same people for lunches, breaks, meetings and events they all feel like family. So many good memories over the last 18 years that it’s almost hard to believe there is so little time left. With such a great team of people who always have your back, it’s a little daunting to think that my “go to” people will no longer be a phone call away. Thank goodness I know all their e-mail addresses!